Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle with the Torah

Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle with the Torah

by Roger Bennett
     
 

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Announcing a smart, daring, original new take on the Torah. Imagine: 54 leading young Jewish writers, artists, photographers, screenwriters, architects, actors, musicians, and graphic artists grappling with the first five books of the Bible and giving new meaning to the 54 Torah portions that are traditionally read over the course of a year. From the foundational

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Overview

Announcing a smart, daring, original new take on the Torah. Imagine: 54 leading young Jewish writers, artists, photographers, screenwriters, architects, actors, musicians, and graphic artists grappling with the first five books of the Bible and giving new meaning to the 54 Torah portions that are traditionally read over the course of a year. From the foundational stories of Genesis and Exodus to the legalistic minutiae of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Unscrolled is a reinterpreting, a reimagining, a creative and eclectic celebration of the Jewish Bible.

Here’s a graphic-novel version of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, by Rebecca Odes and Sam Lipsyte. Lost creator Damon Lindelof writing about Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son. Here’s Sloane Crosley bringing Pharaoh into the 21st century, where he’s checking out “boils,” “lice,” and “plague of frogs” on WebMD. Plus there’s Joshua Foer, Aimee Bender, A. J. Jacobs, David Auburn, Jill Soloway, Ben Greenman, Josh Radnor, Adam Mansbach, and more.

Edited by Roger Bennett, a founder of Reboot, a network of young Jewish creatives and intellectuals, Unscrolled is a gathering of brilliant, diverse voices that will speak to anyone interested in Jewish thought and identity—and, with its singular design and use of color throughout, the perfect bar and bat mitzvah gift. First it presents a synopsis of the Torah portion, written by Bennett, and then the story is reinterpreted, in forms that range from the aforementioned graphic novel to transcripts, stories, poems, memoirs, letters, plays, infographics, monologues—each designed to give the reader a fresh new take on some of the oldest, wisest, and occasionally weirdest stories of the Western world, while inspiring new ideas about the Bible and its meaning, value, and place in our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bennett has assembled an eclectic and clever group of contributors for this often irreverent, but always insightful, treatment of each of the 54 portions of the Torah read annually by observant Jews. Each section is preceded by a brief, conversational, and accessible synopsis of the text. For example, editor Bennett writes of the beginning of Genesis, “While man goes about the time-consuming task of naming every animal, God realizes it is not a good idea for him to be alone.” And the Midrashim are equally creative. Damon Lindelof, the cocreator of the popular TV show Lost—and the inspiration behind this book—translates the binding of Isaac into a transcription of a police interrogation of Abraham that emphasizes how irrational the plan to sacrifice his son was. Essayist Sloane Crosley (I Was Told There’d Be Cake) presents a Pharaoh turning to WebMD to get help dealing with the plagues, and whose Google search for “Aaron’s rod” turns up rather pornographic results. Another highlight, which follows the section in Exodus that details the Tabernacle’s construction, is architect Marc Kushner’s solution to finding a spot for it in Manhattan. Jews and non-Jews alike are sure to relish this entertaining and informative bit of unorthodox exegesis. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Association. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“[The contributors] bring a modern sensibility and playful edge to the biblical text . . . Their new readings will inspire new insight, new meanings, new light.”
Jewish Woman

Kirkus Reviews
2013-08-15
Some young writers and artists offer, to varying effect, their original takes on traditional study of the Hebrew Bible. The Torah, the Jewish Holy Scripture, is composed of The Five Books of Moses. It is divided into 54 segments from Genesis through Deuteronomy; for millennia, it has been read in sequence and studied assiduously each week of the Jewish calendar. That continuing scholarship is fundamental to the religion in all its forms. Bennett, the co-founder of the Jewish organization Reboot, enlists 54 writers, most with day jobs in the media/showbiz world, for comment on each particular portion. "Consider this...as a book of unorthodox Divrei Torah," he writes, "offered up in the spirit of the rabbinical assertion that there are infinite interpretations of the Torah and that everyone who stood at Mount Sinai saw a 'different face' of the text." Unfortunately, the exercise in casual exegesis doesn't equal the sum of its parts. The amateur theologians, undeniably talented in other venues, demonstrate that biblical hermeneutics is a special calling, one not usually using sophomoric shtick, no matter how sincere. Each portion begins with a summary of the original narrative--most entertaining, perhaps, for newcomers to the Old Testament--followed by contributions of short stories, dramas, comedies, graphic novellas, poems, monologues, photos, memoirs, riffs, takes and bits. The humor often comes in the format of a script for a show unlikely to be seen anywhere. Certainly, there are a few short stories that might stand alone and some heartfelt kernels in all the chaff. But what may be aimed at a market for lightweight gift books contains scant insight and less teaching. Among others, some of the big-name contributors include Aimee Bender, Rebecca Dana, Joshua Foer, Adam Mansbach, Sloane Crosley, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Greenman, A.J. Jacobs and Dana Shapiro. Sketchy Bible study with a self-indulgent, frisky class.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780761178743
Publisher:
Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/24/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
File size:
16 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"There's no greater challenge and thrill than grappling with the first five books of the Bible. Whether you read the stories as sacred texts or literature, for moral guidance or entertainment, they are life-changing. The energy and thought behind the commentaries contained in Unscrolled are contagious. You will find yourself wanting to begin again at the beginning of everything."
–Jonathan Safran Foer

“An ideal gift for anyone looking to hear a very old text in a very new voice, giving permission to wrestle, to reimagine, to reject, to love, to stand in awe, and to be surprised.”
–Rabbi Sharon Brous, Founder, IKAR, Los Angeles

Meet the Author

Reboot is a national network of young, creative Jews founded on the belief that every generation must grapple with the questions of identity, community, and meaning on its own terms. Reboot has created over 100 projects, including the National Day of Unplugging; the international architecture contest Sukkah City; and the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, a record label and archive dedicated to tracking down lost Jewish music and the musicians who created it. Roger Bennett, writer, broadcaster, and cofounder of Reboot, is the author of several books, including Bar Mitzvah Disco. He lives with his family in New York City.

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